March 24, 2017
Source: Wikimedia Commons
De Gaulle was a modernizer; he sought to change France, while remaining true to “the certain idea of France I had made for myself.” Macron is a modernizer too; he speaks of France as “a blocked society.” But whereas, deep down, de Gaulle was a Catholic pessimist, Macron is an optimist. He is a classical liberal who wants to loosen up the arthritic French state and political system. He believes in the E.U. and the European ideal, which differentiates him from Le Pen. He believes in kindness and respect for others””benevolence” is a word he often uses. He seems to be honest. Campaigning in one of the deprived banlieues of Paris, he was asked what promises he had to offer. “None,” he said, “there have been too many promises here””promises never fulfilled, empty words.
There is something attractive about him. In a time of anger or resentment, he speaks of hope and generosity. Almost 90 percent of French people believe their country is either stuck in the mire or moving in the wrong direction. Many of them will vote for Marine Le Pen because she promises to change direction. But she frightens or disgusts those she doesn”t attract. Macron, as an article in Der Spiegel put it, “is the only candidate in the election who is not fomenting fear”; there’s a touch of Kennedy in 1960 or Tony Blair in 1997 about him, someone capable of catching the imagination of voters, especially the young ones. De Gaulle might approve of that, too.
Of course, it may all come unstuck on the eve before the election next month. The surge of enthusiasm for Macron may evaporate in the way that what was called “Cleggmania””the enthusiasm for the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg that followed the first leaders” debate in the 2010 British general election”had subsided by polling day. But it may not. The French may prove to be as fed up with the old politics as they were when they voted for de Gaulle as the first president of his new Fifth Republic.